Mayoral candidates sound off in forum
STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff | 4/30/2013, 1:13 p.m.
The struggles of working-class and working-poor New Yorkers were channeled into every scream, hoot and holler during the mayoral forum at the First Corinthian Baptist Church in Central Harlem. With every Democratic candidate on the panel (and some Republican ones), the focus on low-income New Yorkers was destined to produce some verbal fireworks. And it did not disappoint.
The panel, which consisted of Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, City Comptroller John Liu, former City Comptroller Bill Thompson, former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion Jr., former City Councilman Sal Albanese and President and CEO of Manhattan Media Tom Allon touched on issues such as the minimum wage, jobs with possibility for growth, the income gap, stop-and-frisk and housing.
Getting some of the biggest applause from the crowd were Thompson and Liu, who made two references to his campaign's fundraising scandal and its subsequent federal investigation. Liu called out the authorities and pointed out what he felt was peculiar about the entire ordeal. "Three years of investigating," said Liu. "They wire-tapped my phones for 18 months. They reviewed a million documents and messages. They interrogated thousands of my supporters. And yet, what do they have to show for it? It's time to put up or shut up already, because I have an election to win."
The forum was moderated by WNYC's Brian Lehrer who ran a tight ship and made sure candidates stayed within their allotted time to comment. Regardless, the candidates took care of business within their time slots. Albanese decided to hit de Blasio on his public desire for the NBA not to have the next All-Star Game at Madison Square Garden.
"You hear a lot of rhetoric about all of these ideas they're putting out there, but you have to understand who's funding these campaigns," said Albanese. "For example, Mr. de Blasio, who attacked Cablevision about the fact that he wants to move the NBA All-Star Game to Brooklyn because Cablevision fired 22 employees ... he's taking contributions from Cablevision.
"Bill, you should give that money back," said Albanese. "That's hypocrisy."
After a smirk, de Blasio eventually said that receiving funding from Cablevision actually emboldens him to challenge the James Dolan-led media empire to make sure they're doing right by the people.
Near the beginning of the forum, a Green Party member rose up from his seat to shout his affiliation and say that he wasn't allowed a seat on the panel. The crowd voiced their displeasure with his not being able to speak with a round of boos. However, he was quickly forgotten when the candidates continued to be pressed on issues such as minimum wage and paid sick leave.
De Blasio told Quinn, "You have to give us a vote on paid sick days now." Quinn cited a study that said paid sick leave would hurt small businesses that operate on the margins.
"There is no conclusive research that paid sick leave is actually detrimental to the economy," Liu responded. Liu also said that New York City's minimum wage should be $11.50 regardless of what the federal government or Albany does, because "$9 dollars can buy you a lot more in Buffalo than in the Bronx."
"We need to have Christine Quinn bring paid sick leave to a vote," said Allon. Quinn was the only person on the panel who didn't openly approve of paid sick leave.
While Allon, a Republican candidate, earned the respect of the audience, he didn't win over many people when he called Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and former New York Police Commissioner William Bratton "heroes" for their work in reducing crime.
"I'd rather have my boy frisked than have more guns on the street," he said.
Quinn advocated modifying stop-and-frisk and working with the cops. De Blasio called it a useful tool that was being abused by authorities. Liu and Thompson both said it should be abolished.
Thompson spoke about already having to talk with his 15-year-old stepson about how to deal with police if he's randomly stopped and questioned. "The question he asked me is the logical question we should be asking to each other," said Thompson. "'But Bill, if I'm not doing anything wrong, why would I be stopped?'
"It has been misused and abused," said Thompson.